Chinese herbs, Nicorette and a wrist watch help me end 30 years of smoking addiction
Cigarette smoking is one of the most commonly recognized drug addictions of our time. Being a two pack a day smoker for many years, I became aware, a long time ago, of the destructive effects of this compulsive habit. There is a long list of personal side effects that I will not enumerate. Very few people will quit smoking because someone badgers them into doing so. In fact, a nagging friend or relative will likely cause more anxiety resulting in a person smoking more. I have found that when a person gets serious about quitting smoking, it will usually be for personal reasons and not because of fears of long term damage to one's health.
It is when personal adverse effects take their toll that smokers get serious about quitting. By October of 1985, after 20 years of this addiction and feeling the side effects mount, I quit cold turkey, the most difficult experience of my life and one that I would not recommend again either for myself or anyone else. I stayed off cigarettes until the spring of 1991 when a combination of stress and a roommate who smoked created an environment that enticed me into resuming the habit.
As the decade of the 90's passed by, the adverse effects slowly piled up again. Several New Year's eve resolutions to quit came and went and were usually broken within the first 24 hours. The mounting side effects I experienced included nasty coughs and phlegm that sometimes came up in the morning too nasty to describe with the English language. There would be pains in the chest in various areas, increases in blood pressure, decreases in libido, not to say, the risk of lung and other forms of cancer, heart disease, the damaging effects on eyesight and the impaired sense of taste and smell. Then there is the endless cleaning of windows, window shades, walls and woodwork as the tar and nicotine piled up, not to mention what the tar did to your teeth and gums. For the pleasure of the moment, I continued to poison myself, puff after puff and was unable to stop.
I know the lure of cigarette smoking having done it for 30 years. I know that quitting cold turkey has a 99% failure rate and cemeteries are filled with the bodies of those who thought they could quit "cold turkey" and failed. I needed to quit again and to find a less stressful way of doing it. A gentler method than the "cold turkey" approach, that is very traumatic and often results in significant weight gain.
Besides personal adverse effects, smoking addiction lowers self esteem. Most persons who are habitual smokers think less of themselves because of their addiction. While the fear of weight gain often holds people back from trying to curb the addiction, the real reason for not quitting is lack of a realistic plan for successfully and painlessly with-drawing from the addiction.
In the past several years a number of observations about smoking addiction have come to my attention.
1. Cigarette addiction starts when smoke is inhaled into the lungs. People who never inhale cigarette smoke never become strongly addicted and usually can quit smoking with little effort.
2. Nicotine addiction is only part of the story, in fact, a lessor part of the story. The biggest part of the addiction is what I call SIA or Smoking Inhalation Addiction. There are substances in cigarette smoke that trigger pleasure centers in the brain. One substance, nicotine, is known, but there are one or more other substances that have not yet been identified. For this reason, smokers find it difficult to switch from smoking cigarettes to chewing tobacco, chewing nicotine gum or wearing a nicotine patch.
A majority of people who chew nicotine gum or wear the patch will also smoke cigarettes at the same time. Cigarette smokers who puff on a cigar or pipe tobacco will often try to inhale the smoke. After they realize it is too strong to do this, they go back to cigarettes. Because of the addiction to smoke inhalation, it is rare to get a diehard cigarette smoker to switch to chewing tobacco, nicotine gum or the patch.
3. Stress, anxiety and depression are the factors that drive the addiction. Low serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain are major contributing factors to depression. A person who is asleep or in a state of total relaxation has no desire to smoke. It is little wonder that an anti-depressant prescription drug called Zyban, has been effective in helping many people quit the addiction. However, Zyban does not work for everyone. I know of several people who said it did nothing for them.
My allergic reactions to the nicotine patch.
In March, 2001, I decided to buy a Nicotine patch at a local pharmacy. Within 5 minutes of applying it, an itch so severe developed I was forced to pull it off. Then, it took several hours to get the spot where the patch was applied to quit itching. I decided that the tasteless Nicorette gum that had nicotine in it was my only over the counter option. Earlier, I had tried 2 different "Smoking withdrawal" homeopathic formulations from a health food store and found them too weak to work or have much effect at all. Note: if the Nicotine patch works for you, then use it.
The Nicorette gum helped. When I actually used the gum, I would stop smoking. The problem was the boredom of having a tasteless gum in your mouth all day. It wasn't long before I found myself smoking cigarettes again and the Nicorette gum would stay in the packet. The Nicorette gum did not satisfy me like the smoking did. I was still addicted, yet, I realized as I listened to my body and my lungs in particular, that they were hurting and telling me it was time to quit. Just how was this to be accomplished? I dreaded the thought of trying to do this cold turkey like I did in 1985 and the mental trauma this would cause. There must be a better way.
A Prayer is answered
In April, I began pray daily and ask God for direction of how to break the addiction. This went on for several weeks. In May, I found a product, a Chinese herbal formulation called "Tobacoff" and bought a bottle of the herbs for $30.00. The instructions called for me to take 3 capsules 3 times a day until the craving for Tobacco ceased. In May, I decided to try just one capsule to see how it agreed with my system and if any strange reactions would occur. None did, but within an hour I noticed the flavor of my next cigarette changed and that it tasted flat.
The next day I took 2 capsules of the Tobacoff formula and found the flavor of the cigarettes would go flat and tasteless for about 2 to 3 hours. I then said to myself: "if I am really serious about quitting, this herbal formulation will help as it takes the enjoyment out of smoking." So for the next two months, I continued to smoke but by the 4th of July, 2001, I felt the time had come to get serious about finally ending the addiction. One morning I prayed again and asked for help. Almost immediately, the voice of God spoke silently in my mind and said: "Look at your watch; take control of your addiction; use the herbs."
In an instant that followed a plan of action of how to break the addiction came into focus. Essentially, this was the plan, the plan that would finally work to end the addiction and would accomplish this with a minimum amount of stress and discomfort. It began with timing of the addiction and included the use of the "Tobacoff" herbal formulation and occasionally Nicorette gum.
How I took Control of my Addiction
Step One - Location.
Taking control of my addiction was the first step that enabled me to gradually reduce my dependency on cigarettes until I could finally let it go entirely. There are three factors that enabled me to do this They were:
1. The mind and free will - you must want to quit smoking as the most important immediate goal of your life. I was ready. I knew it was crunch time.
2. Find a place to keep the cigarettes other than on your person or in your home or place of work. Places to consider are the trunk of your car, basement, attic, locker, garage. etc.
3. When you do smoke, find a place other than your home or place of work.
Suggestion: outside, porch, garage. Pick a place to smoke where you rarely spend much time. While quiting, keep the home and office a smoke free environment.
In July, 2001, I placed my cigarettes in the trunk of my car. This forced me to end my chain smoking habit. Anytime the cigarettes are on your physical person (ie shirt pocket), habit will keep up lighting up without realizing what you are doing.
Step Two - Timing
Pick a date to start and mark your calendar. Try to avoid being around other people who smoke when you are quitting.
Days 1 to 3. For two pack a day smokers, smoke a cigarette once every half hour on the half hour when the minute hand reached 6 or 12 for the first 3 days. Note: For one pack a day smokers, start directly with one cigarette every hour when the minute hand reaches 12 which is day 7 for the 2 pack a day smoker.
On days 4 through 6, I stretched the time between cigarettes to one every 45 minutes smoking only when the minute hand of my watch reached 9, then 6, then 3, then 12. In a span of 3 hours, I would smoke 4 cigarettes.
On days 7 through 9, I stretched the time between cigarettes to one every hour when the minute hand reached 12 and at no other time. By the time I reached day 7, I had decreased my smoking from 40 cigarettes a day down to 16. Until day 7, I did not need the Nicorette gum or the Chinese herbal formulation called "Tobacoff" but now I realized that the cravings to smoke were increasing and something had to be done.
Step Three- Smoking Withdrawal aids.
Chinese Herbal Formula (Tobacoff) and Nicorette gum
On day seven, I began to take the "Tobacoff" product using 2 capsules once every 4 hours. Once in a while between the hour span separating the cigarettes, I would take a bite or two out of a piece of Nicorette gum and them remove it from my mouth.
Almost immediately, the combination of the "Tobacoff" herbs and the occasional bite from the Nicorette gum took away the cravings almost completely. Three days passed and day 10 arrived. So far, the withdrawals had been easy and I remained in control of my addiction.
Days 10 through 12, I stretched the time between cigarettes from 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Now this reduced my total cigarette use to 11 cigarettes a day. I continued to use the Tobacoff 2 capsules every 4 hours and occasionally chewed on the Nicorette gum.
On days 13 through 15, I further stretched the time between cigarettes from 1.5 hours to 2 hours. Now my consumption of cigarettes dropped to only 8 per day. I continued to use the Tobacoff and once of twice between cigarettes would bite on the Nicorette gum.
Days 16, 17 and 18, I reduced cigarette use to one every 3 hours and continued with the herbs and the Nicorette gum. By the time I got down to 5 cigarettes a day, I was ecstatic. I wasn't under stress, climbing the walls or grinding my teeth. It was really easy reaching this point. I began to feel like a prisoner about to be released. What a great feeling - to be free at last. Could I make the final stretch and finally quit and no longer have to think about cigarettes? Yes, I said to myself; I am going to win this race.
On day 19 and 20, I reduced the cigarettes to one every 4 hours, just 4 per day. By day 21, I knew That I could make it because I was already 90% to my goal. On day 21 which fell on August 7th, 2001, I decided this was the day I would finally smoke my last cigarette. At 8 p.m. that night, I visited a friend who smoked regularly and told him this would be my last cigarette. In fact, it was the last cigarette I had in my pack. He said: "If you want to quit, just quit, cold turkey."
I told him that if you smoke over a pack a day, the cold turkey approach had about a 99% failure rate. I told him that quitting cold turkey now was not that much of a challenge as I was down to 4 cigarettes a day while a month ago it would have been impossible when I was smoking 40 cigarettes a day. I told him that my addiction was already 90% gone.
The advantages of gradual withdrawal: Little or no weight gain. Little or no stress. Increased self esteem with self control. The watch proved to be a valuable tool for taking control of the addiction and finally withdrawing from it.
Did I fall off the wagon as I tried to quit?
Yes, it actually took about a month to quit. There were days when I smoked a few more cigarettes than I had planned. In fact when I smoked what I thought was my last cigarette at 8 p.m. on August 7th, it turned out not to be my last. On August 8th, a friend who smoked stopped over and I asked him for one cigarette and I smoked it at 10 p.m. that evening*.
On August 8th, I continued to use the Tobacoff herbs occasionally but not the Nicorette gum. I did reach my goal of quitting before my birthday on August 10th, 2001 although I started using a homeopathic product called "Smoking Withdrawal" by Natra Bio for about one more week. By August 15th, I was off everything, no Nicorette, no Chinese herbs, or the Natra Bio formula and most importantly - no more cigarettes.
I knew that of the two addictions, cigarette smoking and nicotine, that the smoking addiction was the strongest and the hardest to break, so once I stopped smoking, quitting the Nicorette gum was a breeze. One thing I also recommend to anyone quitting is to get plenty of chewing gum or peppermint candies. They help keep your mind distracted from the smoking addiction. Eating fresh fruit throughout the day is very helpful as this will keep your serotonin levels up to prevent depression.
What are the main pitfalls to avoid to prevent getting hooked again on the habit?
The main thing is to avoid, at least for the first 2 weeks, spending much time around people who smoke or in public places where people smoke. The chemicals in second-hand smoke will awaken centers in your brain that will cause you to want to smoke. If you should take a puff off a cigarette, remember that the next morning when you wake up to think of yourself again as a "non-smoker." People who take up the smoking habit after they quit do so for several reasons. 1. They live with or hang around with people who smoke or 2. Have depression, stress or anxiety in their life and/or 3. Have a self-image of themselves as a "smoker."
Depression can be overcome by eating carbohydrates alone, without added fat. That is to eat fruit by itself or whole grain bread without butter. This will raise serotonin levels in the brain. Second, take a walk and drink good clean water. Walking and mild exercise (not weight lifting) increases endorphin levels. When your serotonin and endorphin levels are high, you are not depressed, you are cheerful and happy to be alive. Associate with people who have a positive outlook on life and avoid people who are angry, bitter, cold and negative. Watch a comedy on television or talk with friends whose sense of humor can make you laugh. Work hard, but play hard also.
Weight gain: By withdrawing slowly, appetite and weight gain are kept to a minimum. I gained 5 lbs after 3 months of being off cigarettes. By contrast, most people who quit cold turkey will gain about 10 lbs for each pack of cigarettes they were smoking when they quit. This is all the more reason to gradually taper off your addiction and thus prevent unwanted weight gain.
Smoking Withdrawal aids
Note: Tobacoff is manufactured by Pacific Biologic in Clayton, CA. www.pacificbiologic.com or call 925-673-2967 to find out how to obtain the product. Tobacoff is the most important product I discovered to help a person quit smoking. It contains the Chinese herbs Yu Xing Cao, Shan Dou Gen, Yuan Zhi and red Ginseng. Cost is about $30 for a bottle. One bottle should be all you need. Nicorette gum can be found at any pharmacy and "Smoking Withdrawal" by Natra Bio can be found at most health food stores. Smoking Withdrawal is a homeopathic product and won't do you any good until you actually stop smoking. You may need it on occasion for about 2 weeks after you have had your last cigarette.
*Update: The cigarette I smoked on August 8th, 2001 turned out be my last. Today is July 4th, 2008 and I will have been smoke-free for 7 years next month on August 8tth 2008. With prayer, persistence and a plan, this destructive habit can be stopped
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